Monday, May 3, 2010

Age and Leadership

Top executives tend to be on the older side and this for the most part makes sense. After all they have accumulated years of experience and this must surely translate to an effective implementation of said experience to drive the company to new heights. Or does it? Could we have a 30 year old CIO performing better than a 60 year old CIO? This week’s post is more about getting your opinion and views on this issue, so please do go ahead and post your comments and opinions.

Let us consider the argument of experience: after all that is about the only positive thing aging brings to you. Everything else is negative in that the body and (to some extent) the mind begin to degenerate, never to reach the prime levels once achieved (typically between age 18-21). So given that experience (and I include the accumulation of knowledge over the course of years as experience) is the prime advantage of an older person in a leadership role, does this really apply to IT leadership and in particular the CIO role?

IT leadership and the CIO role in particular require a great deal of constantly updating your entire paradigm of how IT functions on a regular basis. After all you have to lead the way not only in understanding new techniques and methodologies but also in creating and implementing them. Furthermore, market share must be captured where the market consists of “playas” that SMS, IM, Tweet and MySpace each other. I, myself, have to work consistently towards keeping myself in touch with the terminology utilized by the younger generation and find urban dictionary ( an invaluable tool for doing so. But the point I would like to raise is will a 60 year old be able to be in tune with this new market and all its peculiarities? Will a 60 year old have the capacity to constantly learn new techniques and methodologies all the time? I know that is what I find myself doing and believe me there are times when it is a lot of work and I find myself pushing beyond my limits. So there emerges a counter argument that while a older person will have experience, will he/she have the CORRECT experience that will be of value in this brave, new world?

There are, of course, no clear and obvious answers to this quandary. I am in no way suggesting that the old timers be shipped to the glue factory immediately. However, I would certainly recommend that the old paradigm of only allowing older folks to reach high levels of leadership not be adhered to blindly. My prediction is that we will see more and more organizations appoint younger professionals in leadership positions. This is already happening as we blog.


  1. I feel that this is where the 'Personality Trait" factor comes in. While we cannot apply a universal rule as to the preferable age of a CIO, younger age is definitely a plus when it comes to keeping abreast with the latest in technology owing to higher uptake efficiency. But hold on- a 'feeling young' CIO who may be 45 upwards may be equally good (if not better) on the uptake part if he has a strong inclination to do so. The very fact that such professionals have seen lot many IT technologies evolve from UNIX & COBOL days gives a total new dimension to analytical reasoning- which is very important to have a mature outlook on an impending IT implementation. All these factors have to be considered holistically when organizations decide to appoint a CIO.